Monday, September 17, 2012

Top 5 Tips: How to get the most out of attending a user group meeting

With the upcoming set of User Group Meetings from Invensys, I thought I'd discuss how to optimize your time while attending.

We all go to user group meetings—in fact, it’s a staple in our industry. Whether it’s for our own company, or you are attending a partner’s, or technology provider’s, there is a vast opportunity to learn, improve, and accelerate your network development.  Here are some tips I’ve gathered for helping you to optimize your time:

1.       Get the lay of the land.  If the agenda is online, look at the sessions, speakers, and subject matter.  Make an agenda for yourself of “must have” versus “nice to see” presentations. This way, if you have conflicts or ad hoc meetings, you know which are critical.  Import these into your calendar, along with all pertinent information (date/time/room/location).

2.       Look at attendee list. Oftentimes, the registrants will be available.  This is a chance to boost your networking opportunities.  Look for competitors, partners, and past/current colleagues.  Sometimes, just knowing who the other attendees are helps you to decide whether the event is worthwhile to attend.

3.       Check to see which organizations are sponsors. An “A” class sponsor list indicates that there are likely great subjects, speakers, and events during the meeting.  If it’s industry focused, it also can foretell if the subjects you are interested in will be presented.

4.       Try to meet at least 5 new people—ideally, from outside of your current industry or interests.  This is a critical part of attending a user group—expanding your network of contacts.  It’s like a live version of “LinkedIn.” Follow up with a specific action item, so that you can email them once you return to your job, to start a continuing dialog.

5.       Visit the expo/demos.  There’s nothing like a quick learn than attending a demo from a subject matter expert, who can net out the features/benefits/highlights of a new product, service or offering.  This is also great for collecting competitive information—you immediately get the positioning points of your competition.

So that’s it.  Five easy steps to making your user/event attendance more productive, enjoyable, and interactive.

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